Book review: I Am No One, Patrick Flanery

By Helen van Berkel

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Author Patrick Flanery.
Author Patrick Flanery.

Recently returned to New York from Oxford, England, Professor Jeremy O'Keefe is starting to rebuild his life with his daughter and son-in-law. As he continues his teaching career at NY University and quietly tries to live his ordinary life, he soon becomes convinced he is being watched.

Mysterious packages arrive in the mail; mysterious people presume an acquaintance with him. Chance encounters take on a deeper meaning. He sees strangers outside his apartment, looking up at him through the darkness.

The book's blurb says author Patrick Flanery has a PhD in 20th century literature from Oxford University and is trying to "explore the tenuous link between fear and paranoia in our post-Snowden lives". So, like his history professor character, Flanery is an academic and, unfortunately, he writes like one.

When I found myself counting the words in sentences (one got up to 138) rather than actually absorbing them, I realised it was time to give up on the book. I got about a quarter of the way and despite hints that something was going on, still nothing gripping had actually happened.

Flanery might well be an "exceptionally gifted novelist" as The New Yorker dubbed him, and this, his third novel, "brilliantly voiced and scintillatingly intelligent", as the Lives of Others author Neel Mukherjee found it, but I found it long-winded. A flick to the end suggests there is a twist in the tail, so those with more patience than me might get to find out what it is.

I Am No One
By Patrick Flanery
(Allen & Unwin $33)

- Canvas

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